Winning at All Costs

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By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.

Memorial Day was this past weekend, a day to remember, reflect and appreciate the sacrifices made by so many for the freedom we enjoy today.  Memorial Day was always a special time for our family.  In the small town where I grew up, a Memorial Day service was held every year in the town square, which my father presided over for many years.

A newer tradition on Memorial Day weekend is the playing of all the old war movies on TV.  One of my all-time favorite movies about WWII is Patton.  George C. Scott does a fabulous job opening up the movie reciting Patton’s famous speech to the Third Army the day before D-Day.  In that speech, Patton colorfully inspired his troops who were nervous prior to battle.  Part of his speech covered the topic of winning:

Patton 2


“When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big-league ball players and the toughest boxers. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. That’s why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war. The very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.”


Winning is important.  Winning is part of our culture.  Winning is good.  Do you aim to win all the time?  Marshall Goldsmith identifies the habit of “winning too much” in his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, as one of the most common behavioral problems that prevents successful people from getting to the top.  When the issue is important, yes, you want to win.  When the issue is trivial and not necessarily worth your time and energy, do you still want to win?  Even when winning is to your disadvantage, do you still want to win?  If you answered yes to those last two questions, you may have a problem!

The need to win is very prominent with successful people.  It’s one of the reasons people ARE successful.  Winning too much is a mutation of the desire to win that can limit your success.  You can become a more effective leader if you can suppress the will to win at all costs.

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